What Christmas Looks Like While You’re Paying Off Debt

Some of us were fortunate enough to grow up with this idea that the holidays are full of magic. The tree felt like it was at least 8 feet tall, there was always enough snow to build a snowman, and somehow your parents made presents appear overnight.

As adults, Christmas might not be quite as magical. The tree looks a little more crooked and snow days become more of an inconvenience. But the season of giving is still full of friends, family, and just that, giving. This holiday season was Dylan and I’s first on our debt free journey, so we did things a little differently. For those of you want to know more about what prompted us to start this, check out my post from a few months back, Debt: The Monster Under Your Bed.

Each month, Dylan and I follow a categorized budget. For the first few months of our budget, we put away $50 a month for gifts. Which we really thought would be perfect once we got to December. Cut to now, and it wasn’t. Taking into consideration friends with birthdays and birthday dinners, we hadn’t built up as much as we were hoping. Then taking into consideration how many people we actually needed to buy gifts for (which was a big mistake we made, we should have done that when we established how much we’d save for gifts each month) we weren’t working with a ton this year. We did end up bulking the monthly savings up to $70 a month for the last few months.  Since then, we’ve completely changed our budget and will be approaching this differently next year!

Before we get to the actual hacks, I wanted to talk about something else that’s incredibly helpful. It has nothing to do with budgets or planning. It’s actually just feeling supported. Having friends and family that understand and support your decision is priceless. It helps combat guilt for bringing the smallest gift to the party and that nagging “do you think this is good enough?” voice in your head. I do feel really good about the gifts we pulled off, though. So I wanted to share with you some of our hacks!

  1. Plan Ahead

    Watching specific items or types of items for a longer period of time, gives you a better chance of getting it at its lowest price. Now, I’m not going to act like we did a ton of this, because we definitely were last minute shopping this year. But there was one thing I was really excited about, the fall PaddyWax Candle sale. There’s a huge annual candle sale each fall for a company that’s based here in Nashville. It’s huge. Hundreds of expensive trendy candles with absolutely slashed prices, so you KNOW your girl snatched up a bunch to hold onto for Christmas gifts.
  2. Framed Photos 

    I’ve realized that a lot of people really love framed photos. Once I had an apartment to decorate, I found even myself wishing I had more printed pictures. Places like Walgreens and CVS offer 40% coupons around the holiday season on printed photos. But if you have a friend with a Costco membership, it’s so so cheap to print photos there. A lot of times, the frames end up being pricey and that’s where people feel the pain. BUT – on Tuesday’s Michael’s Craft Store does half off of frames. You can almost ALWAYS find a coupon online before you get to the check out. They have different deals as well. This last time Dylan and I went, frames were buy one get one free!

  3. Candy/Alcohol 

    I know what you’re thinking, candy is lame. It’s meant for the stocking and the stocking only. But hear me out. Candy CAN be thoughtful. If you have a Harry Potter fan in your life, you can find chocolate frogs, and Bertie Bott’s Jelly Beans, which personally I would be pumped to get (if you could find vegan ones). But there’s also a fascination with oversized things here in the United States Big teddy bears, big burgers, big checks (I mean, have you seen Ellen?). So finding a jumbo sized box of candy I think is actually a great gift, especially for some of the younger people you’re buying for. There’s a store called It’s Sugar that has all of this and more. Even better, it’s actually super affordable!Alcohol is a great option for those 21+ on your list as well. The key to making this a worthwhile gift is cute wrapping. Decorating the bottle in a pointless but cute Christmas sweater or obnoxious bow, etc, really helps the gift come across as well thought out.

Those are some hacks we used when buying gifts for other people. As far as gifts go for each other, we kept things small. Neither of us felt like we had any business going all out on presents for one another if it was going to hinder our goal of paying off our debt. So we had $50 to spend on one another, and honestly, that was plenty. I hope this has been helpful to you in some way! If you have specific questions or want to know more about something, please let me know! I’m happy to share everything I’ve learned so far!

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